Neural circuits are the foundation of animal and human behaviour; their proper function underlies both inborn and acquired behaviour, such as innate walking prior to experience, or contextual memory whereby behaviour changes in response to experience. Several brain disorders are characterized by developmental defects or disease-related dysfunction of neural circuits, including dementia and schizophrenia.
Research in the Department of Neuroscience addresses three fundamental questions aiming to understand neural circuit formation and function in development and disease:
1. How is genetic information translated into neural circuits and behaviour?
2. How does experience modify neural circuits to encode memory traces?
3. How are these processes affected in disorders of the brain?
We are using the fruitfly Drosophila and the mouse as genetic model systems to address these questions in a systematic way in vivo. We are applying an integrative approach combining bioinformatics, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and behavioural studies. Current research investigates the development and disease-related dysfunction of GABAergic and monoaminergic (dopamine, serotonin) circuits in the fly brain (Hirth), as well as the circuit-specific expression and function of plasticity-related genes in normal mice and models of schizophrenia and AD (Giese).
Several of these studies are conducted in collaboration with members of other Departments (Clinical Neuroscience, SGDP, Wolfson CARD), as well as national and international collaborators (Cambridge; VIB Leuven/Belgium; CNRS/France; Nencki Institute/Poland; Penn University/USA).
Staff working in this research include: